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Controversial US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald announces resignation

Mandel Ngan / AFP - Getty Images file

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald takes a question at a Department of Justice news conference on Oct. 28, 2005.

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald abruptly announced his resignation Wednesday with no heads up to top officials at the Justice Department and no current plans for new employment, his spokesman said.

Fitzgerald called Attorney General Eric Holder and U.S. Sens. Richard Durbin and Mark Kirk Wednesday morning to inform them of his plans to retire, just hours before his office publicly announced that he was resigning as of June 30 as U.S. attorney in Chicago. 

Fitzgerald, 51, was stepping down "for personal reasons," said Randall Samborn, Fitzgerald's longtime spokesman "It's been ten and a half years. It’s a long time."

Originally nominated in 2001 by President George W. Bush and kept on by President Barack Obama, Fitzgerald was probably the Justice Department's most famous -- and controversial -- prosecutor. He oversaw major corruption investigations that put two lllinois governors -- Republican George Ryan and Democrat Rod Blagojevich -- and top Obama fundraiser Tony Rezko in prison.

He is best known for serving as special counsel in the CIA leak investigation that led to the conviction of Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice.

Under Fitzgerald, the U.S. Attorney's Office also convicted media baron Conrad Black.

More recently, Fitzgerald had been tapped by Holder to head an investigation into the leaking of classified information involving Guantanamo detainees that led to the indictment of former CIA officer John Kiriakou.

In the announcement of his departure, Fitzgerald thanked his colleagues.

"I extend my deepest appreciation to the attorneys and staff for their determined commitment to public service. This was a great office when I arrived, and I have no doubt that it will continue to be a great office," he said.

Holder on Wednesday praised Fitzgerald "as a prosecutor's prosecutor."

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